In a first in Indian sports, the name of a woman athlete—six-time world champion boxer MC Mary Kom—has been recommended for the prestigious Padma Vibhushan award, the country’s second-highest civilian honour after Bharat Ratna, by the sports ministry. Mary was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2013 and Padma Shri in 2006. What’s even more interesting—and unprecedented— is that all nine athletes recommended by the ministry this year are women. Badminton world champion P V Sindhu has been nominated for the Padma Bhushan. Sindhu was also recommended for the Padma Bhushan in 2017 but failed to make the list of awardees. She had got the Padma Shri in 2015. The Padma Vibhushan has been given to three male sportspersons in the past chess champ V Anand (2007), Sachin Tendulkar (2008) and mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary (posthumously in 2008). Seven women stars in line for Padma Shri.
Besides Mary Kom and PV Sindhu, the other seven women in this year’s list – all recommended for Padma Shri – are wrestler Vinesh Phogat, table tennis star Manika Batra, T20I skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, hockey captain Rani Rampal, former shooter Suma Shirur and mountaineer twin sisters, Tashi and Nungshi Malik.The recommendations have been sent to the Padma awards committee in the ministry of home affairs (MHA). It will announce the names of the selected awardees on the eve of the Republic Day celebrations – January 25, 2020. Apart from this list of nine names, some individual recommendations have also been sent to the MHA.
Mary Kom, 36, who was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha in April 2016 on the recommendation of the ruling BJP government, is looking to qualify for her second Olympics – the 2020 Tokyo Games – after securing a historic bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. Late last year, the Manipuri boxer had clinched the world title in 48kg category at home for the record sixth time. Rio Olympics silver medallist Sindhu recently became the first Indian to win a World Championship title, defeating Japan’s Nozomi.